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Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Unicorns Are White

Ta-Nehisi Coates:

Bernie Sanders was asked whether he was in favor of “reparations for slavery.” Sanders' response...:
No, I don’t think so. First of all, its likelihood of getting through Congress is nil. Second of all, I think it would be very divisive.
The spectacle of a socialist candidate opposing reparations as “divisive” (there are few political labels more divisive in the minds of Americans than socialist) is only rivaled by the implausibility of Sanders posing as a pragmatist. Sanders says the chance of getting reparations through Congress is “nil,” a correct observation which could just as well apply to much of the Vermont senator’s own platform. The chances of a President Sanders coaxing a Republican Congress to pass a $1 trillion jobs and infrastructure bill are also nil. Considering Sanders’s proposal for single-payer health care, Paul Krugman asks, “Is there any realistic prospect that a drastic overhaul could be enacted any time soon—say, in the next eight years? No.”
Coates doesn't so much endorse Clinton here (after all, she is not advocating reparations either, and I think it unlikely she would -- though I wish she would) as express despair that "if not even an avowed socialist can be bothered to grapple with reparations, if the question really is that far beyond the pale, if Bernie Sanders truly believes that victims of the Tulsa pogrom deserved nothing, that the victims of contract lending deserve nothing, that the victims of debt peonage deserve nothing, that that political plunder of black communities entitle them to nothing, if this is the candidate of the radical left -- then expect white supremacy in America to endure well beyond our lifetimes and lifetimes of our children." But Sanders' knee-jerk dismissal of just this one radical proposal for justice as "divisive" of all things as well as his ongoing preference for class analysis over a recognition of the centrality of white-supremacy in particular in understanding the specificity and intransigence of untold violence, hopeless poverty, political dysfunction in this country symptomize ways in which he may simply be out of step with the most important and ever more important constituencies in the Democratic coalition. Clinton has her problems, but that is not one of them.

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